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Part – 2: [INTERVIEW 2016] UPSC Civil Services IAS Personality Test Preparation – 2016 – Complete Guide

UPSC Civil Services IAS Personality Test Preparation – 2016 – Complete Guide (Part – 2)

By: Pravin Sakaria

CLICK HERE for Part One



In this part, we will examine practical applications of all that we discussed in Part 1, through a Case Study of Actual Civil Services Interviews of Civil Services Examination, 2014. ( interviews in 2015)

It is not a mere reproduction of the transcripts of the interviews. The focus is on the preparedness before and during the interview and the applicability of mental traits during the actual interview. Comments are given at appropriate places.

It is presumed that you have read Part – 1: All About UPSC Civil Services Interview,



In CSE, 2013 he had scored just 129 marks. In CSE, 2014, a jump of 69 marks. Scored 198.

He is Kunal Kishor from Bihar. All India Rank 337 in CSE, 2014.

How he prepared

Last year, (i.e. CSE 2013) he had scored low. Analysed his mistakes:

“Gave fumbling answers and fumbled a lot after giving a wrong answer.” Attempted answering everything even when he did not know. Lost coolness.

Soon after written Exam, 2014, avoided partying around or wasting time. (as he did last year). He concluded that interview is 80% about personality and 20% knowledge. So he did PREPARE on biodata, Current issues etc. But his main focus was on the traits or qualities of a good personality:

“Always kept these things in mind- Composure, confidence, attitude and mindset and above all humility.” “This I have observed in many good IAS officers, big corporate leaders etc.”

In short, he gave priority to Preparedness over Routine preparation, by improving upon mental traits. Soon he found it the most interesting part of all and started enjoying it.

He Practiced calmness. Again and again (‘almost half of the time during interview preparation’, in his own words), told himself: “I am going to get 200 marks in interview. I will not loose my cool if I am not able to answer any question. I will answer calmly.”

Before Actual Interview:

He avoided asking questions to Interviewed Candidates. (last year he suffered due to this). Just revised some notes. Kept calm waiting for his turn.

He recalls: ‘Last year we were called to wait outside the interview room. But this time peon asked me to directly report to interview room. I reached there and he said that bell has rung. But I had to go to toilet. So, I went inside interview room 2 minutes late and board was waiting.’

‘I was cool. No panic for these small things.’

His Interview:

Optional: Sociology. Graduation in Engineering.  2nd attempt. No Post-graduation. No other professional courses. Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements: Watching inspirational movies, playing a Video Game called Rise Of Nations. Experience: Working with bank.

Chairman: Shri Chatter Singh. Duration: 35 minutes

He enters the room. Walks to board and wishes them‘Good Afternoon’

CM– (Showing him his photo) ‘Who is this handsome boy?’

Ans.- Sir, ‘That’s myself, Kunal Kishor.’

Comments: responds cheerfully.

(member m2 nods head saying good, good).

Cm- Sit down, Kunal.

Ans.- thank you , sir.

Comments: Creates good first impression.

Cm- Kunal, what is this Automation engineering?

Ans. – computerization of process, includes cad, cam etc.

Cm- What is cad?


Cm- Have you heard of 3d printing?

Ans. – Yes sir.

Comments: felt happy. knew it well. but no excitement on his face. Calmness pays.

Cm- what is it? What are its usage, application, potential?

Ans. – answered very well in detail. Every part of it.

Cm- Have you gone to industrial training in your college times?

Ans.- ‘Yes Sir.’ (not much confident)

Cm- Did you see assembly lines?

Ans.- thinking and then said ‘yes sir’

Cm- What did they manufacture?

Ans. – ‘Automative parts, brakes, clutches, gears using cold aluminum casting method’

Comments: He smartly uses the word ‘aluminum casting method’ in his answer. Because he has read Aluminum Casting Method extensively.

CM- Describe assembly lines there.

He Answers.

Comments: The C.M. has, so far, acted as an Ice Breaker by asking simple questions related with his Graduation and his observations. He thus makes him comfortable.

Cm- How does Maruti manufacture cars?

Ans.- Outsource it from nearby areas, from small manufactures, etc.

Cm- Asks something on assembly line.

Ans.- Sorry Sir, I am not aware.

Cm- Asks about a technical concept JIT.


Cm- ‘How does maruti employ JIT?’

He tried to answer.

Comments: He makes a mistake. It is risky to answer it. He has never visited maruti. Could have confidently said that. He need to be aware that he is not supposed to know it.

CM- asked some graduation related technical questions.

Does not know answers. He starts feeling stressed.

C.M. – asked one more graduation related technical question.

Ans. – ‘Please give me some time to think on this.’

Cm- Yes, yes, sure.

He takes more than 1 minute. Thinking hard. answered. But does not answer well.

Comments: very nice. He uses 1 minute wisely to cool and distress his mind.

Cm- You must know this.

Ans.- ‘Sure Sir, I will certainly learn it.’

Cm- Good.

Comments: see how humility and readiness to learn pays. A simple ‘sure sir’ type reply breaks the stress cycle. He is aware that he is not supposed to know it. Still he humbly shows his readiness to learn.

Member M1 takes over. He is a very calm and composed personality. Candidate regains his confidence and feels good.

M1- asked a concept.

He didn’t know that. Said Sorry Sir.

M1- Asked simple stuffs on energy sector in India, potential of renewable energy and coal? Whether sufficient? If sufficient then why importing? Etc.

Answers them well and pointwise.

M2 takes over. He is also from engineering background. Asked questions related to engineering. Some about assembly lines.

Could not answer.

M2 – Asked questions about Casting process.


M2- notices his unusual hobby of playing a video game. Asks

Answers confidently.

Comments: M2 seems satisfied with his response. So he interrupts him and asks next question. He must have noticed candidate’s honesty of mentioning his actual hobby in in DAF.  It helps. A ‘manufactured hobby’ is risky and reveals your Dishonesty. Honesty pays him.

M2- (interrupting) ‘you organized Janta ki adalat in college?

Ans. – yes sir.

M2- what was it? Answered. Who were personalities? Answered.

M2- What is financial inclusion?

Ans.- answered in detail. Covered opening of new bank accounts, cultivating banking habits, government services like insurance etc

M2- ‘But how will they put money if they have nothing to put in their belly?’

Ans.- Pardon Me, Sir.

M2- repeats

Ans.- repeats other points. M2 looks satisfied.

( starts feeling uncomfortable and  hungry at 12:50. Handles some how.

M3 takes over. Starts probing.

M3- causes of corruption and solutions.

Ans. – (thinking for 45 seconds.) ‘Sir, one of them is colonial legacy’ (M3 interrupts).

M3- What colonial legacy?

Ans.- dastaks given to company official who misused it. This transmitted into culture of money mindedness and bribery.

M3-  No. was it not breach of trust?

Ans. – (Thinking) It was both bribery and breach of trust. Justified how.

M3- Counters again.

Ans.- mentally ready for such situation. replied confidently. Stuck to his point that it is both.

M3- opinion on uniform civil code. ( optional sociology )

Ans.- Desirable as for national uniformity and strengthening nationalism but needs consensus and wider discussion among all sections.

M3- And?

Ans. – Also improve women’s condition.

M3- How helpful in hindu laws?

Ans. – Talked of hindu adoption and maintenance act- where no equal right to women in adoption.

Comments: M3 starts probing into his personality. M3 often counters him and forces him to discuss his points in details. Candidate handles his stress with calmness and composer. He takes time to think before answering. LATE technique helps.

M4, a lady. Very calm, polite and patient Listener: You like watching movies. What kind of movies? (Hobby)

Ans. – names some inspirational movies. Uses the word ‘Lincoln’

M3 interrupts. What was he fighting for?

Ans. to bring 13th amendment in parliament.

M3: No, What was his quality which you liked the most?

Ans. – his determination to abolish slavery and bring equality among humans on racial basis. His compassion for humankind.

Comments: He handles interruption with calmness. His body language shows quality of his empathy and compassion for human problems. Creates good impression.

M4= Kunal, what are strengths of Bihar (home state).

Ans. – demographic dividend, tourism, agriculture and agriculture based industry, market potential.

M4= What tourist areas do you have in mind?

Answered well.

Comments: M4 seems happy. She helps him to regain his normalcy and confidence by asking simple questions.

M4= You have lived in Delhi for so long. What are problems of Delhi and solutions?

Ans. – pollution, water and electricity problem in slum areas…

Comments: feels hungry and goes blank. some how manages to finish his answer about pollution and solutions. Lesson: Do not go there hungry or over-eaten.

M4 – asked some questions

answered most of them.

M4= Are you aware of India China issue.

Ans. – had prepared well. Replies well.

Cm takes over again.

Comments: Cm. probes with some cross questions on uniform civil code. Unable to understand some of them, honestly admits. To some,  answers after thinking.  Cm pretends to be a Devil’s advocate and counters him by opining that there is no right culture for the same. Candidate emphasizes in favor of uniform civil code and says:

‘then sir, we all will have to come forward and develop such culture so that all of us find space and prosper together’.

Cm laughs.

He also smiles.

Cm= Thank You, Kunal.

Ans. -Got up. Thank you Mam. Thank You Sirs. Looked to everyone.

( While leaving, he slips a bit but takes hold of sofa placed nearby. But he keeps his calm. Calmness pays him throughout the interview.)

His Marks in  Personality Test: 198

Best part to remember: A simple answer with Coolness ‘Sure Sir, I will certainly learn it.’ displays a combo of Confidence, calmness, humility and common sense. 



A candidate, when asked to narrate his Personality Test, replied: “I do not want to talk about my Personality Test because I have been awarded just 151 marks.” But he emphasized on the Reasons:

“I had been selected as RBI Grade B officer and I was very casual about Personality Test. Gave some casual answers. To illustrate:

‘What should we have to do to bring every child to school?’

He answered: “GER has already reached almost 100% and almost every child is in school.”

Don’t you think it is just on paper?”

He answered: “Sir, I Respect government statistics and believe them to be true.’

His own conclusion: “lot of careless attitude pulled my score down.”   


A Tale Of Two Roommates:

Kavan And Mihir are roommates having same background. Both are of equal caliber. Both knew that Interview is their strong area. Both prepared really well. During series of Mocks, they got best feed backs from interviewers.

During the actual Interview, Kavan did well. However, Mihir was not satisfied with his performance. Their marks out of 275 were :

                             Expected              Actual

Mihir:                  160 to 170            160

Kavan                  200+                     210


Surprisingly, Mihir knew that it did not go well but could not verbalise what went wrong during the interview. When insisted upon for a self-review, he said: ‘during last 10 minutes immediately preceding the Interview, while waiting outside the interview room, I suddenly went blank as if intoxicated for a lie detector test’

Comments: See. Preparedness is more important than Preparations. Managing last 10 minutes appears to be a small matter but it matters a lot.

Kavan (Rank 198) speaks about his preparedness:

* ‘From interview dates declaration to interview date, I internalized that I’m already a topper and results will just officially affirm it. Always thought how awesome I am. It worked. Mind is easy to fool.’

Comments: See how helpful is the GAME OF SAVE i.e. Systematic Advanced Visualizations of Enjoyment.

* ‘I used to see the photos of board members and imagine interview setup. This helps develop familiarity.’

Comments:  See how helpful is the GAME OF FIVE i.e. Familiarisation, Imagination & Visualization Experience.

 * ‘Interview day is important. I took with me a book I would love to read on my death bed. Read that book while I waited for my turn. I was soon absorbed into that book.’

Comments: Managing last ten minutes of waiting outside the Interview Room are crucial.

 * ‘I was prepared for the stress interviews as well. I have a poker face, natural gift for an interview.’

Comments: Bacteria and Virus are small but they cause deadly diseases. Preparedness for small and subtle parts of behavior actually matter a lot.

His Interview experience:

On opinion based questions : He was asked whether or not there should be ban on alcohol in Gujarat (home state). He said NO to ban. He expressed his opinion frankly. Interview board was no different. He couldn’t answer some initial questions related to his optional (Philosophy). He felt bad but still managed to remain cool.

Type of Questions were optional based, background related, Home State related and general. He found the Board very cordial.


Optional: Sociology. Interview Score: 178.

Board: H C Gupta.

Chairman read out educational and employment details from DAF. Found that he has worked for an NGO. Asked:

Which NGO did you work?

What sectors does it work? (drinking water and sanitation)

Which projects on sanitation did you work. Please explain

Who is the founder of Sulabh International?

What is Sulabh model of toilets.

Is there any other alternative sanitation models?

Comments: So far, ,questions were from hobby. NGO work. Makes candidate comfortable. It would have tensed him if he had a manufactured his hobby. 

Tell me about the recent Karnataka High Court verdict? (Jayalalitha case was in news then) What is her full name?

Why did Tamil Nadu HC transfer the case to Karnataka?

M1: Why is Lokpal needed?

What is Lokayukta? Who is current Lokayukta in Karnataka? (Home State )

How do you curb corruption in India?

( issue of Lokpal and Karnataka Lokaykta were in limelight then )

Is MNREGA successful? Tell it loopholes?

Why negative balance of trade is bad for India? We can very well import goods?

Why our exports not competitive?

Case: You are District Collector, there is a calamity (floods) all crops are destroyed and there are no official records about cropping patter in your office. You have to start from scratch. What are the steps you will take?

How will you finance the crop losses? What is National Calamity fund? National contingency fund? Differences? Who gives funds?

(Chairman after asking questions went to toilet. Some members pretend to be feeling sleepy and not looking at candidate. Some members contradict him to see how he responds and  substantiates his stance. Some  would cut him short in between and jump to another question. )

Comments: after making him comfortable, Panel tests his confidence and calmness during unwanted situation and also consistency of his views.


Strange Case Of Reduced Marks. CSE, 2014 Topper Ira Singhal:

Her Interview Marks :

2011 and 2012:    190+

2013:                    151

2014 :                   162.

Comments : In 2014, board members asked her many factual questions which she could not answer. She actually fell into a trap of Questions with a Disguised motive.

Moral of the story: Prepare for each interview afresh. Be mentally prepared for a variety of situations.

A Case of Three consecutive interviews:

Name: Roshni Thomson. Graduation: B-Tech in Civil Engineering.

Working as Indian Postal Service (IPoS) Probationary Officer since Dec 2014.

Optional: Public Administration

Hobbies: Reading Fiction, Volunteer for Palliative care.

First attempt, 2012: Marks in interview: 156. Not selected.

Second Attempt, 2013: Marks in interview: 165. Rank 598, allotted IPoS.

Third Attempt, 2014: Marks in interview: 193. Rank: 98.

Home State: Kerala

Her Views after 3 continuous UPSC interviews: ‘I realize that the interview is all about one’s confidence. Your worst enemy (or the best friend) in interview is yourself. It is all about what you say and how confidently you say it. we need to be logically consistent in our thinking. No matter which board one goes to, if we are able to keep our cool, answer confidently and with consistency, we will be adequately rewarded.

I do not think there is much importance to the candidate’s background. I have attended mock interviews. During my first attempt, outside the interview room, I broke down due to anxiety and the burden of the moment when I was at the final frontier to my dream. I made the mistake of judging my own answers while answering and ended up contradicting myself many times.’

‘But this time, I could correct my mistakes and see UPSC interview with more maturity. I tried to check my own understanding of many fundamental aspects.

I answered confidently those questions that I knew, and did not feel bad about saying it when I did not know’.

Interview Board: H.C. Gupta. Duration: about 30-35 minutes


-What ails the Dept. of Posts? How to improve efficiency?

– Is it a worthwhile idea to give banking to post offices when you cannot even deliver letters in time?

-When was telegraph discontinued?

Comments: Initial Questions related with her job in Postal Service  (IPoS) to break the ice.

-Name an Annual sporting event which happens in Kerala?

Comments: She could not answer this and frankly admitted her lack of interest in sports. No further questions on sports.

– In Public Administration, what is the theory of “Long arm, short finger” and “short Arm, long finger”? (optional related)

Unable to recall. Admits it.

-Comparing India with Japan and South Korea, it seems that we have not progressed at all and have wasted the first thirty years after independence. What do you think? (typical Devil’s advocate type question)


Case of Dr. Khushaal Yadav:

Interview score 201. Written 782. Total 983 marks. Rank 28 in CSE-2014. 1st attempt. Optional : Med. Science. Work : Junior Resident at AIIMS, New Delhi.

Home State : Haryana. Hobbies : Cross words, Debating, Reading, Chess, Listening Gazals.

Background :  in the graduation days, he had practicals including viva-voce. It was then that he realised that more than respectable knowledge, mental skills and right   attitude matter more:

‘I did not do great in the content aspect. My answers were not extraordinary but being well prepared mentally and being presentable helped me score 201 and make the cut. It compensated for a below par 782 in the Mains that I managed.’

His Preparation (rather Preparedness):

Work on the State of Mind:

  1. ‘IMAGINE yourself to be into the fabled corridors of the UPSC and being escorted to the interview board. Anticipate and feel it.
  2. Mirror, mirror! Use repeatedly. Practice speaking before a mirror.

3 ‘Imagine you are already in the job. Say, you are in a meeting with hot-shots , or addressing a Press Conference.’

  1. Summarise after reading. Close your eyes, summarize and recapitulate the key words.
  2. Alternatively, you could record yourself and analyze the clip later, with or without friends. Watch Gestures (facial/bodily), Slips of tongues, stock-phrases, beating around the bush, tone, pitch, pace, etc.’

Moral: Preparedness matters more than Preparations.

His Interview Experience:

Board: Dr. Mrs. Kilemsungla. Duration: 25 minutes. At 1:05 pm.

Many Questions asked were predicted.

‘You cracked a tough Exam of AIIMS, So much time and public money invested,…  Don’t you think you have a responsibility as a doctor? Why IAS?’

comments : a typical Devil’s Advocate type question.

‘What would be your commitments to medicine as an officer?’   

‘Things you would do for health sector?’

‘Democracy structural vs institutional weakness?

Safeguards for civil servants ?

Proactive media, good or bad?

Sufi history ( based on DAF)

Earthquake , your response as DM (situational question)

Asked to solve a crossword. (hobby). Could not solve.

About Anand and his back to back defeats to carlsen. (hobby of chess)

Education reforms and RTE.

Misunderstands and talks about RTI. Mistake is pointed out.

Comments: He responds humbly when his mistake is corrected. Panel notices his  response and body language and finds him humble and grateful when a mistake is pointed out.

Repeated questions on Telemedicine.


Case of Aditya Ranjan, ( AIR 99 ), 210 marks:

Board : Kilemsungla Madam. Duration: 45 minutes.

About Preparation :

-Preparedness for Personality Test and not merely on knowledge.

-Followed a Daily fixed routine. Habit of Thinking with closed eyes.

-Worked on Expected Questions reg. DAF

-Practiced a Balance of mind-set and views

Interview experience:

Had a Poor start. Before entering :‘May I come In?’

Chair Person :‘No, please wait ouside.’

Waits for a few minutes. Avoids entering. Instead asks the Peon to open the door and seek approval. Then enters.

Kilemsungla Mam on cadre choice: ‘why preferences for filthy states like Jarkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh?

 Ans: ‘mam, because they are filthy states.’ C.P. smiles.

Comments : Chair Person pretends to be prejudiced. A devil’s advocate. But he  impresses her with a positive response.

Some Logical and expected questions. Follow-up and Probing questions from DAF and Home state. Answers them.

Member: ‘Is there any dowry in your state?’ Other follow up questions like ‘is it in entire state?’ ‘Why only among upper castes?’ ‘Why not among lower castes and tribals?’ ‘Do you believe in caste?’ Other follow up questions connected with Woman’s social status and Protection of tribals and meaning of child Labour and related legislations.

Comments: probing questions based on his previous answers are asked after making him comfortable.

Candidate’s view: ‘More than Fifty percent of it went on expected lines. But there were unexpected turns as well. Not at all a stress interview. But some members pretend to be negative and prejudicial to check candidate’s personality traits like objectivity, optimism, confidence and calmness.’


Case of  Dr. Sandeep Beniwal, a Dentist. 208 Marks in interview:

Chairman: ‘ok you may go.’ He stands up to leave.

 member 2:  ‘wait , can I ask you a few more questions?’

Ans.: definitely sir.

Member: what are the specialities in dentistry?

Ans : mentioned all, briefly described.

Member : why is dental treatment so painful?

Ans : ‘it is not sir, it is just the perception, we practice painless dentistry now a days. Even the needle pricks for anesthesia are minimum painful.’

Member: ‘good’ with a smile. ‘You can go now. Thank you for your extra time.’

Comment: The interviewers countered him and tried to change his opinions on khaps and women’s issues but he sticks to his views with confidence and calmness.

Case of Dharamvirsinh, Chartered Accountant:

Hails from Anjar, Kutch, Gujarat. 5th attempt. 2nd attempt of Interview.:

He was asked:

– Why civil services after already well-established as a practicing C.A.?

– If you are Kutch DM what would be your priority? Supplementary questions followed about Home District like what is USP of Kutch, about Kandla Port and coastal security.

– If your client asks you to window-dress the accounts and manipulate his balance sheet to avail some loan, then what will you do as a Chartered accountant?

Comments: A situational question to test your integrity as well as your common sense. Merely showing off integrity by saying: ‘I will refuse to manipulate accounts’ would not suffice. You need to combine Intellectual and Moral Integrity. Stepwise answer needed combining commonsense, self-interest and integrity. E.g.:

  • first help the client to avail loan without any manipulation, may be a smaller loan.
  • convince him to manage with smaller loan. Advise him for a better Financial Management by expediting collections, offering cash discounts etc.
  • Still, if the client insists upon manipulation, politely but firmly refuse to do so.
  • Even if he threatens to leave you, do not agree to manipulate his accounts.
  • if he leaves, take it is as a lesson to improve the quality of your services so that other clients do not leave.

This way, you may handle some counter questions that may follow.


Case of 132 marks of IIM Alumnus:

Basant Kumar, Age 27. AIR-379 in 2014.

Optional: Political Science. Engineering Graduate. Post Gaduate from IIM-Kozhikode.

Attempt: 3rd.

Work-experience: 3 years with NTPC and 1 year with Tata Steel.

CSE-2014, Personality Test marks: 132

His Preparations: Collected all the information from Internet about college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level. Did not attend any mock interviews.

His Interview Board: Mr. Vinay Mittal. Duration: 30 -35 minutes.

He considers it as a stress interview: ‘No unexpected questions but lots of pure factual questions.

Comments: Scored just 132 in interview. An IIM Alumnus. Interview was his strong area. Board Chairman Vinay Mittal’s image is of a very calm, friendly and soft spoken person. Yet the board members intentionally asked some factual questions which he could not answer. Need was to keep calm and not to loose self esteem. But he must have felt stressed. He must have thought: ‘do the interviewers not know that it is not a test of factual knowledge?’ He could not break the stress circuit. Thus, with all his superlative talent, he fell in to the trap of Questions with a Disguised motive. This changed his rank:

Total Marks he needed to get IAS:             951

His marks in the Written Examination:      782

Interview marks he needed to get into IAS:          169   

With better Preparedness, he could have easily scored 169 marks.


Moral: Handle the Questions of Disguised motive with calmness. Asking many trivial factual questions is only one way of trapping you. Next time, they may appear with other traps. When the interviewers apparently talk and behave irrationally or unnaturally or against the well-established norms and objectives of the interview, recognize the trap of Disguised Motive. Just play your role in that drama with confidence and calmness without falling into the trap.   


Case of Mihir Patel, Rank 27, 198 marks:

His marks in the Written Examination: 786 i.e. just 4 marks more than Basant Kumar,  Rank 379.

Board: KilemSungla Mam.

His interview got prolonged for about 56 minutes. An exception. But get mentally prepared for such exceptions.

After Chair Person declared that the interview was over, a member asked him to wait and asked: “ there was poverty, unemployment and illiteracy before India’s independence. The same continues today. So has India not failed as a state?

Comments: Interviewer pretends to be cynical like a devil’s advocate. It is expected to give a positive reply. Candidate has to contradict the interviewer but politely.

Case of Umesh N.S.K.  77th Rank:

Chaiman : David sir

The interviewers were very friendly but many factual questions were asked:

What is solar eclipse? where does Ganges originate ? What are the different disarmament treaties ? Chemical weapons , biological weapons convention ? What is reverse engineering ? What is a smart home ? history of Madurai Meenakshi Temple ? What is the dispute between Apple And Samsung ? How is possible to hack a flight’s information system without using internet ? What are the security implications of Wifi in public places ?

Candidate chooses to answer ‘Sorry sir , ‘I do not know sir’ and ‘I am unable to recollect sir’  for 80 percent of such questions.

Comments: board members intentionally asked such factual questions which candidate would not be able to answer. You get marks even if you cannot answer them. You need not fall into the trap of Questions with a Disguised motive. Maintain your self esteem, confidence and calmness.

Opinion based questions: on net neutrality.  

Question on hobby of cricket: ‘narrate an interesting match in IPL.’  

Questions on hobby of reading books on India: ‘which is favorite book?

why that book?

He answers them all comfortably.

Candidates Review: ‘Overall, I did not know answers to so many questions. Tried hard to remain cool and smile. The final score of 176 marks is above my expectation.

Comments: Compare this score of 176 marks with the Case of 132 marks of IIM Alumnus, Mr. Basant Kumar. Both did not answer many factual questions. But both responded differently and scored accordingly.  

Another example of Questions with a Disguised motive:

Chairperson Mrs. Alka Sirohi asked such questions to a candidate having History as an optional: ‘do you know about Habsburg Dynasty? How it was related to Napoleon?

Candidate admits that he does not know.

Chairperson Mrs. Alka Sirohi: ‘if you do not know it, you have not studied history.’

Comments: She intentionally asked such trivial factual questions which candidate would not be able to answer. She knows that the candidate has studied History well. She wants to check his behavioral response. It is a trap of Questions with a Disguised motive. Just maintain your self esteem, confidence and calmness. Say with Humility: ‘sure, I will learn it.’

Case of 208 Marks in 1st attempt. Saikanth Varma. Rank: 18

Board: Mrs. Kilemsungla

Chairperson: What makes you think you are suited to be an administrator?

Had not prepared for this question.

Ans.: Madam, I think coming from a technical background and as someone who understands technology, I can easily identify areas where I can  plug in the technology to improve the system.

Comments : does not answer what is asked.

Chairman: Using technology is one thing, but an administrator needs many more things. You seem like a strong technical guy, what makes you think that you will be a good administrator?

Comments: He should have taken a few moments to think. He got tensed a little.

Ans.: Madam, I am a very patient person and am willing to listen to what everyone has got to say. Also, I am a slow learner and I think here it works to my advantage.

(himself dissatisfied with his answer. Tried to keep cool with a smiling face)

Comments: A very poor start. Still ends up with 208 marks. Moral: do not lose confidence and calmness. There are ample opportunities in next questions.

[Member 1] You’ve mentioned reading about ethical hacking is your hobby. So what is ethical hacking?

Ans.: Sir, should I also explain why it is called ethical hacking?

[Member 1] Notices his over-excitement, “No, leave it”

Comments: He could not keep calm. Got over-excited. So lost a precious chance of answering and discussing his favorite and well prepared topic. See, Calmness pays. So avoid both the extremes: nervousness as well as over-excitement.

Member 2] You were earning such a high salary at your previous job. How are you going to live with the pay cut.

Ans: Sir, even though I got inclined towards civil services in college itself, I took up the job as a software engineer because the pay was good and that felt right at that point. However, during the 2 years of me working as a software engineer, I felt that money is not the only thing that can take me to work every day for the next 30-35 years. I realized that I must choose a career that would give me a greater job satisfaction. And civil services promised me that job satisfaction. Also sir, if we consider all the other allowances that a civil servant gets, then pay cut is not so big and I was willing to take that cut in lieu of greater job satisfaction.

Comments: answered well.

Member 3] I have only one question to ask you. So think for a minute and answer. Today civil servants are being selected through an exam and by a bunch of 5 people interacting with the aspirants for half-an-hour. Even though UPSC is fair in all aspects, don’t you think this isn’t correct? I think many engineers and doctors like you are coming towards civil services and wasting all the money spent on making you engineers and doctors. Instead I think civil servants should be selected soon after 12th class, and then they should be adequately trained in all necessary aspects like polity, economy, technology etc and make them more suitable for administration. What is your opinion on this?

Ans.: (Silent for a few seconds) Sorry sir, I beg to differ with you on this. This is something I’m telling from my own personal experience. I don’t think that a 12th standard student will be mature enough to choose civil services as a career for right reasons. I think it is a very mature decision. Also sir, I think civil services is such a diverse career that it would want candidates from diverse profiles. It wants the best engineers, doctors, lawyers, MBA grads, economists etc.. On the other hand I feel that training all the 12th passed students to be civil servants would make all the civil servants to be monotonous. I think that diversity is one of the biggest strengths of Indian bureaucracy which must be continued.

Comments: answered well.

[Member 4] Should we move towards Presidential form of government because in reality that’s what we are witnessing in our country?

Ans.: ‘I don’t think we should because the Executive is held accountable for its actions by the Parliament in Parliamentary form of government’.

[Member 4]  So is in the Presidential form of government. Infact, the President of US is more responsible to the US Congress than our PM to the Parliament.

Me: Sorry sir, I will need more time to think on this.

Comments: initially hesitant while answering, regains his calmness.  

[Member 4] Tell me just 3 or 4 points on what strategies we need to adopt to achieve 8-9% growth rate.

Ans.: Sir, inclusive development

[Member 4]  That is not a strategy, that is an objective.

Ans.: Sorry sir. Skill development, women empowerment… (goes blank and member 4 prompted tax reforms.  (pause again and couldn’t answer)

Chairperson: okay its done.

Ans. : Thank you madam, thank you sirs, have a nice day.”Walks out.

Comments: Interview ends abruptly. Candidate does not do well in the beginning and in the last question. Still he scores 208 marks. Moral: Be confident and calm. You may pick up and accelerate any moment.

Case of Anuraag Jayanti, CSE, 2014 Rank 55, 198 marks in interview:

Chairman : Shri DK Dewan. Duration : 35 minutes.

Comments : The interview mainly centered around candidate’s hobby of reading books on Mahatma Gandhi and his DAF. Hardly 10% questions  outside his biodata. He could not answer those 10% well. Still a decent score of 198. Moral : never cook up a hobby. Honesty while filling DAF pays. Dishonesty harms.

His interview Transcript:

Chairman asked what his roll number was. Answers it.

Then he asked ,“why do your eyes look red?”

Ans.: ‘I have not slept properly last night.’

Simple ice breaking questions regarding where he was staying and where his father works etc.

Then looking into the biodata he asked, “ In your hobbies section it is mentioned that you like reading books on Mahatma Gandhi . Why do you like reading his books?” I answered that his honesty had attracted me which was later on nurtured by his insistence on following ethics in every field of action. He continued,“ Tell me who are the two internationally famous followers of Gandhi?” My answer was Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. He further asked how Martin Luther King had died and his famous speech which I was able to answer partly. The chairman continued asking some more questions on Gandhi like,“what was the immediate reaction of Nehru when he received the news of Gandhi’s assassination?” I answered that I knew about the speech which he had made then. The chairman asked me what it was. I replied-“the light has gone out of our lives…” The chairman seemed pleased.

I was asked a few questions regarding  pivot to Asia policy, members of Nato ( could not answer)

He again switched back to my hobby and asked me questions like who had called Gandhi a one man army, what was the context in which Mountbatten had called him so, how Gandhi tried to stop the riots in Calcutta etc

Then the sole lady member of the panel took over. She questions on karate which I had mentioned in my extracurricular activities section. She asked what was the difference between karate, judo and kungfu. Unfortunately I was not able to answer this question. Moving ahead, noticing that I had mentioned Sanskrit as a subject in my intermediate, she asked me “what is the message given by Bhagavad Gita?” This was followed by “do you think B.Gita’s message is relevant for modern times?” I answered that Gita espouses the philosophy of self less action and it has even greater relevance in modern era. She then asked me some factual questions regarding quit India movement, purna swaraj declaration etc. All the while I tried to keep eye contact not only with her but also with each and every member of the board. I could see that the chairman was listening to her questions and my replies attentively, often interrupting and asking a few additional details himself.

The next member took over.

He asked me polity related questions like

“Where do you go to enforce your fundamental rights?”“Can you go to any other court other than High courts and Supreme courts?” How many writs are there and what are they? Tell me in detail” “ what is the meaning of the word Habeas Corpus?”

The chairman took over. Again questions related to Gandhiji.

Finally the last member  asked about Graduation related subject. He could not answer them.

Moral: Honesty while filling DAF pays. Dishonesty harms.


Case of Tusharanshu Sharma, AIR-75:

193 marks in Interview. 2nd attempt. 1st interview.

From IIFT.  MBA.  Optional: Sociology. He attended 3 mocks at Chandigarh.

Interview board: Mr. Chhatar Singh. Duration: 35-40 minutes.

His Interview:

Chairman: What kind of guitar do you play?

What do you think are the subsidies that are being given to farmers?

What should we do? You think that subsidy model is sustainable?-

Do you know if fertilizer subsidy reaches them at all? Do you know who is responsible to make subsidy reach to farmers?-

I think it does not reach farmers. It is given to middlemen who don’t pass it on entirely. Why do you think that is the case?

I think it is about will to bring it under DBT. I have that view.

Comments: One question related with hobby. Series of questions and follow up discussions on agriculture. He is from Punjab.

C- How is our relation with WTO? Do you think regional agreements are the way forward or you believe WTO can work out better? What is India’s stand on TFA?

Comments: Questions related with Foreign trade. He studied at IIFT.


– Your portfolio looks already strong- you have done so many different activities, what is that you would like to add more in that in say, next 5 years?

–  How do you define modern art? If you have to give a lecture to students on modern art- how would you explain it to them? (painting as hobby)

– What is Music piracy? How would you control it? Is internet the culprit? (music as hobby)


-how would you balance use of organic farming and fertilizer use in India?-

Member 3:

See you are from finance background- please tell me how is capital budgeting important?

Could not recall.

What is watered capital?

Could not answer.

C– What is your question?

M3– Watered capital (pointing towards glass of water). Would you like to guess?

Comments: Candidate is from finance Back ground and must be knowing about Liquid Capital. But M3 intentionally uses the word ‘Watered capital’

M3– What is Bullockless agriculture?

Comments: M3 intentionally uses the word ‘Bullockless agriculture’ in the place of ‘mechanized Farming.’ 


– What was Pablo Picasso famous for? He said to make form you have to break form. Why? In what categories can his paintings be divided across his life?- What impact did his paintings have on Spanish Civil War? Know about Ajanta? Does it have paintings? Ellora ? has Just caves or paintings too?

Comments: After some Open-ended and Probing questions, some trivial factual questions are asked on the hobby of painting. Board’s intention is disguised. Candidate is not expected to know answers but to keep his confidence and calmness intact.

some simple questions related with his Optional Sociology followed. He answers them well.


Case of Interview Marks much above expectations: 212 marks.

RAJA GOPAL SUNKARA, Rank 49. He was pleasantly surprised with his 212 marks in Interview. He was not happy with his performance in the interview. Interviewers kept prodding him for something more even after he gave 3-4 points. But he got 212 marks. In his own words: ‘This proves that answers do not matter but our composure matters. Aspirants shouldn’t copy any answers. They should instead work on their smile, composure, etc.’

His Preparations:

‘Immediately after Mains, I tried to list as many questions as possible regarding each point in my DAF. I tried to answer them as well. I used to religiously watch The Big Picture, Policy Watch, India’s World on Rajya Sabha TV.

My friend and I used to ask each other questions from that day’s newspaper everyday for an hour.

For hobbies, I read from the internet.’

I attended quite a few mock interviews. In one mock interview, one panelist pointed out that I pull my eyebrows closer when I listen intently. This makes me look tensed. He also told me that I should smile more. I worked on both these suggestions. Another panelist suggested on the language part:

  1. It is a fake encounter
  2. Prima facie, it appears like an excessive use of force.

Option b is preferable.

His Interview:

Board: Mr. David. Duration: 30 minutes.

David Sir:

1) Your hobbies are learning carnatic music and making videos. How can you integrate both?

2) What is your choice of cadre?

3) In the context of Delhi’s demand for full statehood, should Andaman and Nicobar be given full statehood?

4) What is a startup?

Member 1:

1) What is disarmament?

2) What types of weapons come under disarmament?

3) What are the treaties and conventions related to disarmament?

4) Why is drama not as popular as Bollywood?

5) What about infrastructure (lights, sets) in drama?

6) What are GM Crops, pros, cons and your stand?

Member 2:

1) Differences between Carnatic and Hindustani Music?

2) Famous carnatic musicians?

3) Who is famous for Veena?

Member 3:

1) How will Naxalism be affected after separation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh?

2) What is genetic engineering? How are genes cut?

Member 4:

1) Why did not cooperative model in dairy industry succeed in other states? (I focused on strength of institutions in Gujarat)

2) Is it not because of the leadership of some individuals?

3) Are individuals more important or institutions?

4) What plays have you performed in?

5) Why did you not do Shakespearean Drama?

David Sir:

1) How did you recreate a particular scene in a particular play (that I had mentioned earlier)?

Comments: The panelists insisted upon him to talk more even after he gave them 3-4 points. This happened 3-4 times. Interviewers wanted to assess his clarity of thoughts and consistency of views. He chose to calmly admit if unable to recall more points but did not bluff.

Case of Vinay Tiwari, rank: 193, marks in interview: 184.

Graduation and Optional: Engineering.

Board: Mrs. Alka Sirohi. Duration: 25 minutes.

His Interview:

The clerk came and got him seated near Mrs. Alka sirohi’s room.

To overcome nervousness, He murmured his favorite “ Aarambh hai prachand”  and “Aashaayen” from IQBAL movie” song to get some inspiration.

Comments: He manages last 10 minutes before the interview well.

Clerk makes him sit outside Mrs. Alka Sirohi’s room. After 5 minutes, the clerk opened the door and called me.

‘good afternoon ma’am. Good afternoon sirs.’

CP: Good afternoon Vinay. Please take your seat.

CP: So you practice yoga and meditation. Tell me what is meditation?

Ans.: Meditation is about concentrating our energy and freeing mind from multiple scattered thoughts to one.

(He feels initial nervousness. Tries hard to keep calm and answers.)

CP: How it helps you?

Ans.: It makes my mind calm, focused and free from unnecessary thoughts.

It also helps to synergize body and mind.

CP:  what is transcendental meditation?

Ans.: The transcendental meditation involves use of mantras. For example meditating with the “om” sound.

CP: Which yoga or aasanas you practice?

Ans.: I practice surya namaskar.

CP: How many aasanas are there in surya namaskar?

Ans.: 12.

CP: Can you name them?

He names three asanas. CP interrupted..okay…..

CP: Tell me what you have been doing since your graduation?

Ans.: I graduated in 2012 and I have been preparing for services since then and to manage my personal expenses, I also teach students.

CP: okay, and directed towards member 1.

Comments: Hobby of Meditation is the pivot around which Ice Breaker Type questions are asked. Imagine if candidate had lied about his hobby.

M1: you said through yoga you control your body and mind both. How you do it?

Answers. M1 does not seem satisfied.

M1: Are you comfortable for a talk on international trade?

M1: Tell me the kind of shift that you can observe in the pattern of international trade over a decade or two?

Gives irrelevant answer.

M1 interrupted. ‘no no…its not that’

Again gives irrelevant answer. M1 again interrupts: ‘No no. you are wrong.’

Now he realizes that the  demand of the question is on a shift towards  regional trade. Answers it.

M1:  Yes. Now you are on the track.

M1:  so what would you call it?

Me: sir it’s kind of regional arrangement for trade. It is not possible to take all countries on board to have multilateral trade.

M1: In which one India is interested and why?


Other follow up questions. He answers them.

CP directed towards M2.

M2: how did you come from your home to Delhi?

Ans.: By train sir.

M2: which train?

Ans.: Names it. Feels surprised.

M2: What did you see in your journey?

Ans.: Sir, I was thinking about my interview and nervous about it. So I slept early and woke up at destination.

M2: No….No….you must have observed something about railways?

Ans.: Yes sir. There was no water in the taps at the platforms in my district. Safety was also not up to the mark. Narrated the recent incident of loot in the same train. And then the speed issue, to cover a distance of 480 km it took 9 hrs for a super fast train.

Comments: POLE i.e. Personal Observations, Learnings & Experiences and ROPE i.e. Recalling Of Personal Experiences help you.

M2: So you want high speed trains?

Ans.:  Yes sir. We require speed improvements via existing track improvements on many routes.

M2: what is the speed of Shatabdi? what are the speeds of high speed bullet trains?

In which countries? What are dedicated corridors?

Answers them.

CP directed to M3

M3 asked 2 questions. Candidate asks him to repeat. Even after repetition he could not even understand the question. This makes him nervous. All of them were staring at him. He nervously asks CP “ma’am may I take some water?”

CP: yes….yes…. you take it. It’s very hot outside.

M3: Ok. Are you alright?

Me: yes sir.

Comments: Candidate does not bluff in stress but wisely buys time to break the Stress Circuit. It helps him. CP and members co-operate with him in overcoming his nervousness. M3 resumes the interview only after making it sure that the candidate is comfortable.

M3: what are the issues in primary education?

Answers well.

M3: can you quote any report regarding learning outcomes?

Ans.: yes sir. ASER report is there.

M3: what about inclusive studies in primary schools?

Answers well.

 CP directed to M4

M4: Discussed a long case study regarding expenditure incurred in wedding, celebrations etc. Long cross questioning followed.

Answers. A discussion follows.

CP: asks basic questions related with his Optional and Graduation Subject i.e. Civil Engineering: Howrah Bridge is which kind of bridge? And the Vidyasagar Setu? what is setting of cement and its initial setting time? Etc.

He answers them well.

CP: Your interview is over.

Case of Highest interview marks:

Zainab Sayeed from Kolkata scored 220, the Highest interview marks in   CSE, 2014. AIR: 107, in her 3rd attempt. (Another girl, V Radhika also scored 220). In 2012 and 2013, she could not clear the Preliminary Examination.

Her Interview:

– Being a Literature graduate, she was asked to identify a poem and the poet from lines quoted by a panelist. She couldn’t answer the question.

– Questions related to international relations and European Union.

– ‘which city You like better, Delhi or Kolkata and why?

Comments: Nobody is a know-all. Even All India topper could not answer all questions. It is important to stay confident and calm.

A classical Case of Follow up and Probing questions:

Name: Ayushi Sharma, Rank 155, Interview marks: 193. 

Board: Mr. Manbir Singh. Duration: about 30 minutes.

Her Interview:

She was the last candidate to be interviewed t that day. Waited for about three hours.

Questions asked:

-You are an engineer then also you took public administration as an optional?

Ans.: Yes sir.

[ Since why was not asked so she restricted her answer to yes only]

-What factors do you think would have been responsible for policy paralysis in our country?

Answered. While answering, she uses the word ‘better government-public interface’

 -What is government-public interface?

Answered. Uses the word ‘public opinion’ in the answer.

-Is it necessary to have public opinion on every matter; since it leads to delays?


Comments: See how a Follow up or a further Probing question emerges using para phrases of a candidate’s previous answer.

-What is disaster management? How has India fared in tackling disasters?

Explained it.

-examples of recent times?

Ans.: Yemen and operation Raahat. Explains both

-follow up on India’s role in Yemen evacuation?


-Factors which have led to decline in cross border terrorism?


-Indo-Pak maritime boundary related question.

She could not understand the question properly. But answered a bit.

Comments: Understand the question before answering. You may always request the interviewer to repeat/explain the question. Use LATE technique. No hurry to answer.

-An Engineering related question.

Ans.: ‘I don’t remember as I am not in touch with this subject matter for quite some time’

Comments: very good honest answer. No further questions were asked about Engineering.

-Reasons for dwindling sex ration in our country?

Enumerated around 4-5 points. Gave examples of Rajasthan and Haryana.

-Differential rural urban sex ratio. Reasons for the same.

Enumerated around 4 reasons.

-If the number of girl child continue to decline; what would be its long term effects?

Crime against women, change in societal fabric and Polyandry.

– Explain polyandry?

Explained it with examples.

Comments: See how a Follow up or a further Probing question emerges from the candidate’s answer.

-What is net neutrality?

Explained it.

-Is there any rule related to it in other country?

Yes; in US as same debate cropped up from this issue earlier.

-What is your stand on this issue?

She gave some arguments in support.

-What is judicial activism? What role it plays in country like India?

Answers well.

-Is it necessary?

Yes; the role of executive and legislature is very broad; the judiciary strives towards achieving the constitutional principles and basic values; but it should not go beyond an extent i.e. point of judicial overreach.

-What is judicial overreach?

Judiciary encroaching upon the areas of executive and legislature.

-Should the parliament draw a line to mark the extent up to which judicial intervention is allowed?

No; it is for the judiciary to decide the same because if any other institution will define it then the very purpose of judicial activism would be lost. Therefore, judiciary gave the concept of judicial restraint.

-What is judicial restraint?

Answered it.

-three more questions as follow up from above discussion.

Comments: See how a Follow up or a further Probing question emerges. Further questions are asked using the words or phrases of the candidate’s previous answers.

Mind your Language. It matters:

For a change, let us take a case from CSE, 2013 (interview in 2014).

Name: Akhand Sitra. Board: Prof. David.

CM – Achcha, you worked in this company called XYZ? As an Associate Product Specialist? What was your exact work there?

A – Sir, I had joined the job in July after writing Prelims in May. Within three months I quit the job because I had to prepare for Mains. So, they did not give me any solid work till then. I was still in basic training.

CM –When you talk with your peers, you can use words like “Mains”, but not when you come to important interviews like this. Mains can be anything.

M4 – Yeah! It can be power mains or water mains too! So what Mains is it?

CM – What are your preferences?

A – First, the administrative services Sir, then the police services.

CM –interrupts. Administrative? For which country? British? Bhutan?

A – I am sorry Sir. I did it again. I should be more academically correct. I meant the Indian Administrative Services.

M3 – Ok. Do you know about Food stability act?

M4 – He means Food Security Act.

A – The National Food Security Act? Yes sir, the idea behind the act was that everybody should be comfortable regarding food. No one should sleep on an empty stomach.

M4 – Everybody? Are you sure?

A – Yes sir, I was coming to the technical part…..  

M4 –interrupts. Everybody?

A – Mostly, people below the poverty line Sir. But the core idea was everybody should be well-fed.

M4 – Everybody? Think harder. It is called the National Food Security Act.

A – Realized. No Sir, not everybody. Every Indian.

M4 – Yes correct. It is only for the Indian citizens and not the world population. You should be very careful in your choice of words. This is the third time. In one instant, you changed the beneficiaries from 1 billion to 7 billion!

A –Yes sir, sorry. I should be academically correct.

M4 – Okay, tell me how the word “Eureka” originate?

A –There was a guy sitting in his bath tub and he came out crying Eureka after discovering a scientific principle.

CM – Guy? Was he wearing jeans? Was he listening to his iPod?

A – Oops. Sorry Sir. I did it again. (Smiling)(CM was smiling too) I should be more academically correct in my statements. A respected scientist came out running into the streets after discovering buoyancy.

Comments: Choice of language matters. Candidate often misses the bus in this regard. He speaks a more practiced informal and slang language. Regular Practice of speaking formal language helps.

The Board throws Corrective questions/remarks at him in a friendly way. The candidate humbly accepts his mistakes every time without losing his confidence and calmness.

Carry on with  the PPP model: Practice, Preparation & Preparedness.

Best of Luck.